computational thinking

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My name is Abel Sanchez, I do research and teach at MIT

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The Teaching of Formal Programming

- - posted in learning, programming, teaching

I read the following last night. It strikes me we could substitute writing for programming and it would hold.

For decades researchers have been telling us that “the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or … even a harmful effect on the teaching of writing” (Richard Braddock, Richard Lloyd-Jones, Lowell Schoer, Research in Written Composition, 1963). I agree if by “the teaching of formal grammar” is meant memorizing the parts of speech or rehearsing the distinction between dependent and independent clauses or listing the uses of the subjunctive. That kind of rote knowledge is merely taxonomic. It explains nothing; students who acquire it have learned nothing about how to write, and it is no surprise when research demonstrate its nonutility.

Stanley Fish How to Write a Sentence

Network Upgrade for Home Cloud

- - posted in Cloud, Home, NAS, Storage

I recently put together a home cloud. Of course, now I need to upgrade my home networking. None of my Ethernet cables support gigabit and my router is two orders of magnitude behind current capabilities. It does not support jumbo frames either.

With recommendations from colleagues, I went to newegg and purchased a new batch of networking equipment.

Most home Internet service is delivered through cable companies. Luckily, in my area I can get FIOS, fiber directly to the house. As great as that is, the default installation converts to coaxial cabling using the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) at the house. Doing some more research, I found the ONT could use Ethernet instead of coaxial.

I had the fun experience of calling tech support and asking, “Can you change my ONT’s connection to the router from coax to Ethernet? Oh, while you are at it, I also need you to break the router’s DHCP lease.” It took a few tries but Kudos to FIOS tech support; they were knowledgeable and on the ball.

After running cable through the house, installing my new router, testing the connections, and making the ONT switch to Ethernet I was up and running.

I am very happy. My internal transfer speeds are screaming fast.

What is taking the most time is integrating 10 years of data. Most of my old drives are brutally slow. I am currently transferring data from two old external drives. The transfer is in its 38th hour!

Once I am done with the transfers, I will the face the scary task of sorting through the data and giving it some sensible structure. I am living my own personal Big Data challenge (grin).

Building a Home Cloud

- - posted in Cloud, Home, NAS, Storage

I knew it was coming. Over the past 10 years. I have been collecting data in CDs, DVDs, external drives, old machines, memory sticks, SD cards, you name it, I have it.

Finally, I reached a crisis point. I had data spread over a multitude of devices in addition to Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon’s Cloud Drive, and SkyDrive.

I needed to build a proper storage solution. I needed to bring together all of my data into one location. I needed to integrate years of research data, books, publications, proposals, lecture materials, talks, designs, source code, email, graphics files, among many more.

I looked at several offerings in the market. I was looking for a minimum of 10 terabytes. I also wanted redundant drives for recovery. I wanted to gracefully survive drive failures – hot swappable being the ideal. Furthermore, considering I would be working on a lot of the data, I wanted good performance and transfer rates. Taking the previous requirements into account, my short list included ReadyNAS, Synology, QNAP, LaCie, and Asustor.

In the end I choose Synology, the DS413 model. Mainly because the reviews touted the simple setup – they were right.

The installation and setup was a breeze. It took me about 20 minutes to load my drives and fire up the NAS

In my next entry I will talk about upgrading my home network to improve data access.

JavaScript Memory Profiling

- - posted in JavaScript, Memory, Profiling

I just watched “Memory Profiling with Chrome DevTools”. I enjoyed the video a lot. You can see the building blocks for great debugging coming together in the browser. Kudos to the “Developer Tools” team at Google.

The Never-Ending Fight for Privacy

- - posted in Carriers, Mobile

I recently switched my phone account to TMobile prepaid services. I liked the freedom of not being tied to a carrier and limiting my information disclosure. I did everything online. I went as far as not giving them my credit card and using a disposable visa card each time.

Everything went well my first time.

The second time, the payment page kept complaining about my disposable visa. After many tries and phone calls it worked.

My third time did not work. Frustrated, I used my standard card. TMobile placed a hold on my transaction three times in a row.

I called TMobile and they requested my birthday, my car model and year, and SSN. I complained. I got no sympathy.

At that point I had two choices. Cancel my account or handover my information. I cancelled my account.

I am so happy I use a Google Number, the abstraction allows me to change my phone service at will.

Are We the Music Industry?

- - posted in disruption, edX, education

A few people have asked me about the changes taking place in education. In the posting below, Clay Shirky does a good job capturing the disruption taking place in academia

I was struck by the following paragraph

We have several advantages over the recording industry, of course. We are decentralized and mostly non-profit. We employ lots of smart people. We have previous examples to learn from, and our core competence is learning from the past. And armed with these advantages, we’re probably going to screw this up as badly as the music people did.

I am more optimistic. I see a lot of enthusiasm and exciting experiments being done internally. Will our institutions react in time to take advantage of these new ideas? The established pattern has been to let the innovators prove their worth in the marketplace.

What Is Cloud Computing?

- -

What is Cloud Computing? The answer can often be cloudy (pardon the pun).

The students of my class did a great job answering the question in video form. They are Rory, Pierre, and Rachelle – see below.

Makes a Lot of Sense

- - posted in CMS

Great article by a group that has been creating scaleable sites for many years - they did WhiteHouse.gov.

Their idea is simple, CMS’ are too complex and expensive to be sustainable over the long run. They claim the can achieve the same with static pages and a light tool for production.

I have been thinking about the same but using Octopress instead of the Prose.io tool they mention.

Makes a lot of sense, we have come full circle.